Murder in the Village
With no witnesses and little evidence, the mystery of Carl Diener’s death seemed impossible to solve. But Arlington Detective Rosa Ortiz never gave up.
On Dec. 29, 2010, the first anniversary of Diener’s death, Ortiz and dozens of officers canvassed the crime scene area once more—this time handing out fliers to motorists and knocking on doors—as a group of Diener’s friends held a candlelight vigil where their friend had drawn his last breath.
It was a vexing time for Ortiz, compounded by the fact that she suffered a terrible personal loss that same day. Upon learning of her father’s passing, she flew to Puerto Rico for his funeral, but her stay was brief. She had a case to solve, and decided her own grief would have to wait.
Returning to Arlington six days later, Ortiz felt somewhat defeated. She still didn’t have much evidence to build a case around. “There were people who saw some things, heard some things, but really there was not an eyewitness of the actual incident,” she says. “And the video that we had did not actually cover the [area] where he was…attacked. But at the end you don’t give up on cases.”
On top of that, a tip that had been sent to police three months earlier proved to be a dead end. While it resulted in six arrests and convictions (she won’t discuss specifics), there was no connection to the Diener murder.
Still, investigating the other crime did have one key takeaway for Ortiz: It provided more insight into the criminal mind—specifically, how perpetrators think when they are premeditating a robbery.
“When people are planning to rob someone, they know that they’re looking for somebody to rob,” she explains. “When they find their target, their adrenaline is rushing. They get excited and nervous because of what they’re going to do. When they do this, their heart rate goes up, they start sweating.”
Sweat carries skin cells. Skin cells carry DNA. And that DNA can be cross-referenced with DNA samples collected from previous arrestees.
She remembered Diener’s pockets. “I knew they had gone in his pockets, because his pockets were turned out,” Ortiz says.
On a cold winter day, a suspect may have worn gloves, she thought. But then again, maybe not, if he or she was riding in a car with the plan of getting in and out of the vehicle quickly. It was a hunch she had to pursue.
Ortiz called the DNA lab that had first handled the Diener evidence. They still had the victim’s pants.
“I consider myself a pushy person,” she says. “I really wanted to see the results. At this point…after you exhaust everything, we had to do this.”
On March 24, 2011, she got a call from the lab. DNA taken from Diener’s pockets matched a DNA sample stemming from a 2009 assault-and-robbery arrest in Anne Arundel County, Maryland.
“That’s when I first heard about Roger Clark III,” Ortiz says.